MCDONALD, Pa. - Fort Cherry High School held commencement exercises for the Class of 2014 Friday at the high school's Jim Garry Stadium.
Class President Maria Bellhy gave the welcome; Treasurer Victoria Nation presented the class gift; and class Vice President Morgan Gedman gave the farewell.
Principal Robert Frioni presented the class.
Bellhy thanked the class' families, friends and teachers, noting the 13 years the class had spent growing up and figuring themselves out had "flown by."
"With out each and every one of you, we wouldn't be standing here. Thank you all for each and every memory," she said.
Shankle said, although graduation is an exciting milestone that grants new responsibilities, it also is an end to the students' time as a group. The classmates will have new challenges, but have been given the tools to meet them through their time at the school. For example, the 102 members of the Class of 2014 have been granted $1 million in scholarships, Shankle said.
She urged her classmates to think about how much more they will have grown and how much more they will have accomplished in another 13 years and to grow into people of which their families and school community could be proud.
"The future belongs to those who believe in the power of their dreams," she said.
Co-Salutatorian Hope Gillespie noted although each student would go on to further their educations and begin their careers and families, they all had been shaped by the same shared experiences and expectations.
"This is a monumental day of our lives, and it's happening right now," she said.
One of the most valuable lessons the class had was to learn to live in the present, noting even those things they wished they had not said or done become lessons.
"If we never made any mistakes, if we never did anything stupid or rash, we wouldn't be human and we wouldn't be living," she said. "I loved my time here, but it wasn't easy to love. Leaving Fort Cherry now will be a hard thing to do."
The graduates will have this last shared experience, but some may never see each other again, making graduation an occasion of both excitement and deep sadness, she said.
Co-Salutatorian Christopher Petricca noted even everyday interactions have the ability to change others for either ill or good and the results can range from small to large.
"We are here today because the experiences we have had here at Fort Cherry," he said.
"Everything that has happened to us over the years have shaped us for good or for ill," he said. "There have been numerous subtle influences. In less than an hour, we will leave school and our common background."
Gedman said, although their experiences were shared, their memories of those experiences were different.
"After today, we are all starting our lives and going on different journeys," she said. "Now, we are here at our high school graduation. This isn't a farewell or goodbye, it's an open door to our future."
She thanked the class' teachers and families and wished her classmates the best of luck in their future endeavors.
Superintendent Robert Dinnen congratulated the graduates and thanked those in attendance and the teachers for their support of the graduates. The graduates applauded their teachers and families.
"We are honoring you for your hard work of the past few years," he said. "We are here to congratulate you and welcome you into the adult world."
He noted that the graduates were around 18 years old, but that they would likely live into their 90s, four times as old as they are now.
"Make sure you live happy, good lives and always remember this day and all the people who are here," he said.
School Board Principal Tina Cottrill announced Dinnen was retiring after 16 years with the district, and an orchard of cherry trees, to be called "Dinnen's Cherry Orchard," will be planted at the district campus in recognition.
(Wallace-Minger can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)